On the Bittersweetness of Christmas Cards

This is the year I decided to start writing Christmas cards again, but I have a problem. Looking through the four cute and efficient Mary Engelbreit Christmas organizers yield few usable for mailing. These books each encompass four or five years of Christmases, and should contain beautiful pictures of kids decked out in holiday concerts, vintage family recipes for sugar cookies, and other such stuff.
Mine are just like my brain: disorganized and disjointed.
Looking through the four was like facing twenty years of mortality, career moves, industry downturns, divorces, and just people moving away. Quite a few are addresses of people we knew through the oil industry in New Orleans, or maybe during Dan’s sojourn working as a contractor for Oakridge National Laboratories. Most of them are far too old to use.
There was a time when I sent out over 36 Christmas cards, each hand addressed and personalized, stamped with real Christmas stamps from the USPS, and sealed with wax. If I was organized, then I sent out pictures. I did that until the year my mother-in-law snapped after getting a handful of photos from us. She said there were so many grandchildren the pictures were overwhelming her. Wow and ouch. I didn’t make that error again.
The INTERNET came, and ecards were so fun and precious. No stamps, no hurried attempts to photograph surely children and spouses for the cards. The trouble for me was that I liked opening my mailbox and getting the cards as much as sending them. When someone stopped, I wondered why, other than economics. This year I think we’ve received two cards so far.
I looked through the address section of those Mary Engelbreit books, at the addresses crossed out because someone had died, and remembered the friends, their houses, the times we spent together. It’s bittersweet. There was one awful stretch in Knoxville where I lost four friends to car accidents, Multiple Sclerosis, and cancer. Spouses remarried, had kids, sold the houses in the book, and we missed that thread of connectedness.
There’s the listing for my late sister-in-law who was killed with her youngest daughters one Ash Wednesday morning. By her husband. Her name still makes my hair stand on end.
I suddenly realize that I’ve not ordered flowers for my mother’s grave, that I haven’t talked to my surviving stepmother in too long. Should I order flowers for my dad’s grave? No.
Those Christmas books are like a hot poker to my memory. Regrets, sadness, loneliness for a parent. Irrational wishes for a time machine.
It starts to dawn on me why stopping these Christmas cards makes sense to a lot of people. When just the Holidays alone make people blue, why pile on more sadness looking at these names and useless addresses? Maybe it’s time to donate the rest of my card supplies and just sleeping elves sleep. Let memory blur the losses into something manageable and bearable.
Yes, makes sense, but I’ll probably change my mind again.

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